Company Chronicles: Big Things, Small Packages

Jim Kaplan's entrepreneurial ambition as a young man evolves into industry leading and environmentally sound business practices.


It was in 1985 that Harlan began development of its supplier base and conducting business in China. During this time, Harlan has opened a sourcing office in Nanjing, China and a production factory and sourcing offi ce in Nantong, China. Harlan OEM now has the ability to market to other equipment manufacturing companies by offering its services and expertise in cost reduction of the customer's components by sourcing them in China.

In 1991 Harlan adopted a strategy to become an OEM parts supplier to material handling and agricultural equipment manufacturers and to abandon the will-fit parts business. The strategy has been enormously successful, to the point where Harlan's long-time competitor, Clark Equipment, has become its biggest customer. Consisting of two business units, the OEM Parts Division and the Tractor Division, Harlan has now become an expert at machining parts and controlling outside vendors to manufacture parts.

BREAKOUT PERIOD

1995 overwhelmed Harlan's infrastructure. The company could not effectively execute the new products and business. Financial results, which had been erratic, were consistently poor. Deliveries were late, inventories were bloated, and product quality was not meeting Harlan's high standards. Jim and Jamie Kaplan had come to a "fork in the road." Either shrink the business to make it smaller, more manageable and more profi table or bring in an outside executive to establish the infrastructure needed to solve the performance issues and continue growing. In November of 1995 they brought John Revere into the Harlan family to lead the development of Harlan's next period.

Over the next three years, each functional area of the business was improved. The first priority was quality. Harlan always supported its product in the field, but at a very high warranty cost. During 1996, Harlan established a process for the development of a new part or supplier and made certain that parts were fully quali- fied before they are used in production or distribution and also stabilized the tractor design, focusing its design capability on improving reliability and quality. Harlan also set up a new tractor synchronous flow production process. The result of this quality initiative was a 98-percent reduction in post assembly process defects and a 96-percent drop in warranty costs.

In 1997, Harlan established the tractor Master Production Schedule, introduced forecasting for independent demand (replacement) items and setup planning parameters, such as lead-time and lot size, on all parts. It took eight months to get all the planning information to reach a high level of integrity in the production, inventory and control system. Parts shortages have been effectively eliminated, while inventory has been reduced.

Harlan's people were beginning to assert themselves in the late 90's as they developed two new products, the Hybrid Diesel/Electric Tractor and the All Purpose Vehicle. These New Product Development projects were initiated to meet specific customer orders. Again, Harlan started by defining a process that included detailed specifi cations, concept design, design reviews, component testing, system testing, manufacturing process development, first article buy off and more. They also used this as an opportunity to implement Pro-E, a virtual reality design system, which enabled the actual assembly of component parts in the computer before building the first production unit. Design errors and lead-time were minimized, production rework was virtually eliminated and, most importantly, Harlan was able to meet the design specifications in record time and ship a quality product on time.

CURRENT FOCUS

We have now arrived in the 21st century and Harlan Global has created an elite team of personnel. Standing at the forefront of operations is Harlan's new Vice President Sales, Marketing and Customer Service John V. Moore. Moore heads a new class after Harlan shuffled its roster adding several key industry professionals. In doing so, they are able to give customers a more consistent and reliable product and continue to improve services, quality and customer support.

Always on the cutting edge, Harlan's design team has introduced the environment friendly low profile electric tractor. With a new AC powered engine, maintenance is all but eliminated. Its ability to stay charged longer and sleek new design has become the talk of the industry.

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